Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World

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Simon Winchester purchased 123 rocky, acres in New York State. The dimensions and viability of the terrain were less significant than the status he acquired. He had become a landowner. As he considered this new departure, he recognized land ownership was universally important in the modern world. Contemplating further, he saw this factor had prevailed throughout history. He undertook a meticulous study seeing how the thirty-six international borders in the world were numerically a mere fraction of the boundaries and borders globally dividing tribes, nations, even countries.

Chapters reveal the uniqueness of each history from Andorra to New Zealand, the Netherlands to Texas often displacing communities, even populations. The quest for land ownership has caused internecine wars and fractured relationships, on occasion formed profitable alliances. Many of the newer national boundaries were drawn during nineteenth-century colonial land-grabs.

Land is steeped in detailed information, it isn’t a quick bedtime read. Rather, it is to be savored, digested, enjoyed over a generous allocation of time. Readers will choose their favorite chapter, each seemingly more compelling than the previous one. I halted at the Ukraine, a country still in the headlines after generations, maybe centuries, of strife and change. But how to rate this more intriguing than North America’s tragic Indian displacement, the cross-cultural destruction of sub-Saharan Africa?

Few authors share Winchester’s ability to explore land’s intrinsic value, move from one sequence to the next so the chapters can be read discretely. Even without the continuity of earlier books like Krakatoa and The Man Who Loved China, this new one is lastingly absorbing.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 416 pages
Publisher Harper
Publish Date 2021-Jan-19
ISBN 9780062938336 Buy this Book
Issue January 2021
Category History


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